I’ve come a long way since I had to meticulously set up my VCR to record theGame of the Weekon my lousy, buzzing and rolling miniature television crowned with broken rabbit ears. (and Mel Allen’s TWIB!) It almost seems absurd that I can now watch any game of my choosing on my phone while exercising or sitting on the toilet, and up to four different games simultaneously on my laptop. And that’s exactly what I decided to do on a lazy Friday. Escape. Open a few cans of Lone Star, tear open a bag of chips and salsa, and…just…escape. Does anyone care about Spring Training and its shuffling of bush leaguers and odd rules? Probably not.
Shohei Ohtani was on the hill for the Halos and that made me harken back to the time I saw him pitch in an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium one curiously freezing night in Los Angeles. The bleachers were teeming with Japanese, no doubt there to see their fellow countryman Ohtani pitch, and a young lady walking by my seat in the aisle spilled a large tray of nachos on me and my F*** the Angels t-shirt. (The stains exist to this day and I am still resolute about that idea) She apologized profusely and meekly in broken English and I felt terrible for her and assured her that I would wash myself off in the bathroom and there were no hard feelings. I also made a mental note of the very odd cultural difference/dichotomy of the Japanese dressing as if they were attending a business function/fashion show rather than the American way of dress which was mostly casual and lacking visual ingenuity with a few jerseys and baseball caps thrown into the mix. I honestly had never seen anyone wear a suit and tie at a baseball game that didn’t involve black and white footage of a guy cheering for Babe Ruth and tossing a fedora into the air. Is this a thing?
These glorified practices are opiate-inducing, laid-back affairs and I was watching passively as Mike Trout was pulled from the game in the 3rd and was probably teeing off by the 5th. Matt Olson does what Matt Olson does and hits a moon-shot to RF in his “feast or famine” playing style that is popular with big leaguers and Olson seems to excel at. The A’s decided to throw in a pitcher by the name of Brian Schlitter (who didn’t play last year because the minor leagues went the way of the dodo) and I had to stifle a laugh as I had written about this dude waaay back in 2019 before that mystery guy even thought about eating the delicious flying mammal that caused a global pandemic: A’s call up Brian Schlitter, A’s bullpen still in the shitter.You ever hear that tired cliche–“the more things change the more they stay the same?” As you may have guessed, Schlitter did indeed put the game in the shitter, but I didn’t notice as equal measure of beer and Spring Training kicked in, and I was soon floating on clouds while verbal sparring with Morpheus in lotus land. Final: Angels 7 A’s 3
I didn’t even shell out the six bucks for a copy of Baseball Prospectus.
It’s not important that I bring to task a Spring Training update; personally I find them to be tedious, but I suppose I must write something considering that this humble dissemination has over 2,500 followers and people actually read the thing for crissakes.
After last years embarrassing one game playoff loss to the Devil Rays, the following remarks swirled in my mind: pointless, not again, now what?, same old shit…who in the hell is Yandy Diaz? The ever graceful and future ace Sean Manaea blamed himself for the loss although it was a team effort as the offense was anemic and made to look bush-league. Watching the game was every bit the “Babylonian” experience. This squad, however, isn’t a “soft reboot” as the youngsters have aged a year and have playoff experience with the following players expected to have a breakout year: Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano. Little was added or subtracted this off-season because of the aforementioned. The template for most prospective playoff teams is a daily set lineup, (depending on L/R matchups, of course) and this team doesn’t have many question marks. Bob Melvin should only have to do a bit of airbrushing here and there.
No Spring Training review is complete without a contrarian view and the second base/bullpen situation must be addressed here. Second base: Franklin Barreto has proven to be impotent, still can’t lay off the slider, and has spent more time in Nashville than Johnny Cash. He has two things going for him: he is young and the A’s front office refuses to get fleeced in the Josh Donaldson trade. Sheldon Neuse should get a look at the position as well because of the big season he had in the desert for Las Vegas. Bullpen: This was definitely a weakest spot as the ‘pen blew more than 25 saves last year with most of the guys being question marks except for Petit and Hendricks. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of non-roster guys made the team. Melvin will be working with patchwork and will be criticized many times this year for how he handled it whether it be his fault or not.
I see no reason why this team can’t pull together, win a roll of the dice in the playoffs and haul the “piece of metal” as Ron Manfred so elegantly called the WS trophy. I think the Nats of 2019 proved that miracles can still happen when you have strong pitching and a lineup that works together without one self-absorbed prick mucking up the works.
Harry was one of those flower children from the 60’s who hitch-hiked to Height and Ashbury from an Iowa cornfield and never left. The pull of drugs, sex, music and the radical politics of the time were an overwhelming factor for someone who loved people and having a good time. He met a girl named Darlene who was 19, had long blonde hair and was so with it that she could quote Karl Marx and roll a doobie at the same time. Harry and Darlene were on and off for about 5 years until she split with a Hells Angel from Lodi. This turn of event was an eye-opener for Harry and he realized that sub-cultures consummating into capitalistic entities do what they normally do–die off. Charles Manson hadn’t helped matters much with his shenanigans in Los Angeles and the hippies of the 60’s that had survived drugs and prison were blossoming into tax-paying citizens and looking for something else to do. So was Harry. Harry eventually moved to the much cheaper Oakland side of the Bay and got a square job working at a Co-op grocery store. He also started going to baseball games at the Oakland Coliseum in the 70’s and the timing was perfect to mold him into a life long A’s fan. The A’s won 3 straight World Series and had great players like Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando. He liked that these guys were brash, outspoken and had long hair and afros. These were his guys. Harry is now 67 and lives in Petaluma, California in his “Château Relaxo.” I recently sent him to check out the A’s and the Royals during a Spring Training game in Mesa. Here is his report:
Mesa is an uncultured bubble community with no sense of inspiration–it is flat, hot, dusty and the only thing to do is eat, get drunk or cook meth. I checked into my hotel and decided to eat at “Connie’s” the diner next door. Now I know why I never see dead animals on the roads, they’re all in the restaurants. Talk about the heat. The damn pool water gets as hot as the outside temps. I met a sweet Mexican girl named Lola who was going to the game the next day. We drank rum, listened to the Eagles and talked for most of the night. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and promised to buy me a beer if she saw me the next day. You’d be surprised how easy it is to find someone like me in a crowd of only 5,000 people.
The next day I was a tad bit hung over, yet giddy as I took a couple of puffs off the pipe and downed a few beers in the parking lot. My Prius was gasping for air. Hohokam stadium is a smallish park that seats about 10,000 and has a majestic view of the sky. I live in a part of California that is so lush with greenery and downcast that anything wide open and infinite like this is a bit strange, yet it was pleasant. I have been an A’s fan for the better part of 40 years and had never been to Spring Training. Bucket list.
The vibe and weather were very relaxing and the mixture of baseball, sun and the night before had me falling into a sort of meditative slumber, and then I would jolt awake during every crack of the bat. I imagine it would have been quite hilarious from an outsiders perspective. Around the 4th inning I felt someone shaking me from behind. It was Lola. We went and had a few beers while walking around the stadium. She was a beautiful brown-skinned girl from the 70’s that came from a traditional Catholic family and didn’t look a lick like her age. She had strength, wisdom and a beautiful smile.
Oh, yeah. The A’s won 6-4 as my favorite player Stephen Vogt went yard twice. This vacation was turning out to be quite nice. That is all from my Spring Training report. Harry over and out.
PALM SPRINGS, March 23rd 1985 — Reggie Jackson and Brian Downing were involved in an altercation with an unidentified man following the Angels’ 8-1 exhibition victory over the Cleveland Indians at Tucson Friday. The incident took place in the parking lot at Hi Corbett Field as Jackson and Downing were preparing to return to the Angel training base at Mesa, Ariz. Jackson, reached by phone Friday night, said he was merely responding to the man’s belligerence by trying to restrain him. He said no punches were thrown and that the man ultimately apologized as he and Downing left in Downing’s car. Witnesses told the Arizona Daily Star that the man had heckled Jackson throughout the game and continued to do so in the parking lot. They said that while there were no punches, the heckler suffered a cut lip, apparently in the jostling near Downing’s car.
by Brody D-Bag (name changed to protect the “innocent.”)
My buddies and I took a trip to Palm Springs in 1985 to get away from our wives, kids, jobs and the everyday hustle and bustle. I was working in real estate at the time and had the persona of a world class douche-bag. (hey, it was the 80’s!) We had been partying voraciously all week and had all downed a few “hair of the dog” bloody marys that morning before Dave looked in the newspaper and found that the Angels were in town for Spring Training.
“I want to see that .220 hitting son of a bitch play!” Dave screamed as he buttoned his Hawaiian shirt.
I knew who he was talking about– Mr. Hot Dog himself, Reggie Jackson.
We all climbed in the car, eyes bloodshot and ready for some beers, sun and some good times. Of course, we parked ourselves in the right field bleachers and proceeded to heckle Jackson mercilessly, as only 10 year olds can. FINALLY in the 8th inning, he turned around and gave us the finger. It was a triumphant moment of immaturity.
After the game I approached Reggie in a drunken stupor in the parking lot and tried to shake his hand.
“You and your friends were the assholes in the bleachers!” he said as he grabbed my wrists and shoved me to the ground.
Jackson then jumped in fellow player Brian Downing’s car and they sped off. It was later reported that I was shoving kids and offered him cocaine…in Spanish. I am not proud of my actions and have always regretted every moment, but that statement simply wasn’t true.
I don’t even speak Spanish.